Six environmental activists who occupied the Euston station tunnel protesting against the HS2 rail project last year are facing a retrial after a High Court challenge that charges against them were dismissed on a “trivial” technicality, a news report has claimed. According to MailOnline, Daniel Hooper, also known as Swampy, Dr Larch Maxey, Isla Sandford, Lachlan Sandford, Juliett Stevenson-Clarke and Scott Breen previously denied aggravated trespass through obstructing or disrupting a person engaging in a lawful activity.
Last October, District Judge Susan Williams at Highbury Magistrates’ Court dismissed the charges because HS2 was not carrying out construction work at the site at the time of its occupation.
However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Max Hill KC, later brought a High Court challenge seeking to quash the judge’s decision.
In a ruling on Friday, High Court judges concluded that her approach to the decision was “fundamentally flawed” and directed the case back to the magistrates’ court for a retrial before a different judge.
Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson said: “We take the view that there remains a strong public interest in the trial running its proper course.”
HS2 is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
It is hoped that the 20-year project will reduce rail passenger overcrowding and help to rebalance the UK’s economy.
The campaign group alleges HS2 is the “most expensive, wasteful and destructive project in UK history” and that it is “set to destroy or irreparably damage 108 ancient woodlands and 693 wildlife sites”.
The subterranean environmental protest lasted for 31 days, one of the longest in UK protest history, although still short of the record of a 40-day tunnel protest in Essex in 2000.
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She said the charges, which carry a maximum possible sentence of three months in prison upon conviction, came out of an “otherwise peaceful demonstration” nearly two years ago, with the delay leading up to a potential retrial lessening the public interest in the prosecution continuing .
But Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson said the judge was “wrong” to conclude that the words “HS2 construction” did not cover clearance works.
They said their meaning was “sufficiently broad” to “encompass works that are part of the overall construction project”, such as “safely securing the land, clearing it, preparing it, transporting materials onto it and building the railway”.
The judges concluded: “The overriding objective is that criminal cases should be dealt with fairly which means acquitting the innocent, and convicting the guilty and dealing with the prosecution and the defense fairly.
“Dismissing a charge because of a technical defect in the particulars of the offense which has no impact on the substance of the case and which can be amended without causing any delay or injustice to the parties, is unlikely to be compatible with the overriding objective. “